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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW: Ch. 5 - The MESSIAH and HIS KINGDOM MESSAGE


By James Fire

CHAPTER 5:1-8

What does the word ‘beatitude’ actually mean, have you ever wondered? One rendering says, “To be supremely blessed, consecrated, and holy, in a state of bliss”. 
Those who follow the truth as expressed by the LORD in this chapter will certainly know (even if they don’t understand) this bliss and peace; yet there must be no mistake: in order to follow the Truth Incarnate, His Spirit must be the one to empower and enable them by indwelling their person!

Christianity is not, and cannot (successfully) be a mere philosophy or a set or principles for ‘moral man’ to abide by. The one statement alone, made by our LORD should put an end to any such endeavor: Matt. 5:48!

Christianity is “Christ in us, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27)!

The apostle Paul likewise deals with the moral man in his treatise found in the book of Romans 2:1-16 (See the TTUF study of Romans, chapter Two).
Certainly the principles laid out by the LORD here are absolutely contrary to the edicts and principles and philosophy of this world which is ruled by Satan. 


This is why the kingdom of God and Light is diametrically opposed to the world’s view which is under the kingdom of Satan and darkness, and why the true church that lives by the Spirit of God is so hated by those of the world:

JOHN 3:18-20


18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved
.

We are entering now into that area in the Gospel of Matthew where the King of Israel is laying down the holy law that applies in His kingdom, specifically in the case of Matthew’s account, the kingdom as it pertains to Israel and the Davidic covenant . This perspective will aid us in understanding many of the verses recorded in this section (Ch’s. 5 – 7).

Dr. Scofield comments:

“The Sermon on the Mount has a twofold application:


“(1) Literally to the kingdom: In this sense it gives the divine constitution for the righteous government of the earth. Whenever the kingdom of heaven is established on earth it will be according to that constitution, which may be regarded as an explanation of the word ‘righteousness’ as used by the prophets in describing the kingdom (e.g.) Isaiah 11:4-5; 32:1; Daniel 9:24. In this sense the Sermon on the Mount is pure law, and transfers the offence from the overt act to the motive: Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28.
“Here lies the deeper reason why the Jews rejected the kingdom. They had reduced ‘righteousness’ to mere ceremonialism, and the Old Testament idea of the kingdom to a mere affair of outward splendor and power. They were never rebuked for expecting a visible and powerful kingdom, but the words of the prophets should have prepared them to expect also that only the poor in spirit and the meek could share in it (e.g.) Isaiah 11:4. [Psalm 72 speaks of that] . . . which was universally received by them as a description of the kingdom . . . For these reasons, the Sermon on the Mount in its primary application gives neither the privilege nor the duty of the Church. These are found in the Epistles. Under the law of the kingdom, for example, no one may hope for forgiveness who has not first forgiven, Matthew 6:12, 14-15. Under grace the Christian is exhorted to forgive because he is already forgiven, Ephesians 4:30-32.


“(2) But there is a beautiful moral application to the Christian. It always remains true that the poor in spirit, rather than the proud, are blessed, and those who mourn because of their sins, and who are meek in the consciousness of them, will hunger and thirst after righteousness, and hungering, will be filled. The merciful are ‘blessed’, the pure in heart do ‘see God’. These principles fundamentally reappear in the teaching of the Epistles.”

Let’s come before the LORD Jesus as He takes His seat and teaches us in this sermon . . . on the mount.


MATTHEW 5:1-2

And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him:
2 And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying
,

The LORD sees with His holy eyes, two groups of people here: the multitude, and His disciples. As He ascended a mountain (interesting how He decided to teach there and not on the sea shore, or valley, or river or forest – a mountain is often symbolic in Scripture for a kingdom, and in this case, representative of the kingdom of heaven) He sat down, and His disciples came to Him and He taught them – that is, His disciples who looked for the kingdom of heaven to be established (this was in a very profound sense, a ‘pre-church’ time period!).

On the subject of ‘disciples’ – these were more than just students; in any classroom setting, once the class is over with, the students and the teacher leave and go to their own homes; not so with disciples and their teachers – they shared their lives with one another. The disciple would not only hear their master’s teachings, but observe how the truth they taught was applied to their life.

In John’s Gospel we read:

JOHN 8:31

Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed
;

This 'continuing' involved more than just hearing and learning the truth as spoken by the Messiah, but in following Him and to continue to follow Him with obedience (Matt. 7:24-27) in disciplined fashion – this is the mark of a True Disciple


In today’s church one can hardly find the preaching of the unadulterated Gospel of Jesus Christ, with the essentials of repentance, surrendering one’s life wholly, continually to the LORD, and living the crucified life of self-denial – so that Christ may be manifest more fully in us and receive the glory (Gal.2:20); this aspect of Christianity – the life of the Cross is what discipleship is all about!


MATTHEW 16:24-25


24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it
.


Discipleship – where elder saints come along side of new babes in Christ, novice believers, and live their lives together, expressing the love, grace, truth and practical living and all the Christian duties inherent to one who is born again in the LORD Jesus Christ: this is something significantly (and sadly!) uncommon in the church today!
One is hard pressed even to find parents who are faithfully discipling their children!

For an excellent book on True Discipleship, may I recommend William MacDonald’s work.


The other aspect of true discipleship is that we shall have such a love for one another as saints of God, that the quality of such will be indistinguishable from the very love of Christ for us (John 13:34-35), because it’s the same love as by the Spirit of God in us! Astonishing!

Paul Washer talks about true discipleship in a video, here (11 mins 14 secs).


Here begins the Sermon on the Mount and our LORD begins with what is called the Beatitudes. As followers of Jesus what should be ‘our attitude’ in life and our daily conduct? 


The greatest in the kingdom would be that one that fulfills the spiritual truths of these verses in their lives. None fulfills them better than the LORD Jesus Himself (even verses 3 and 4? I will address this a bit later) – He is the standard, the measure of true holiness by which any that would claim to be holy should look to for comparison.

The verses following are excellent as a kind of ‘spiritual barometer’ to determine where we are in the level of maturity we have (or not) in the LORD. Other such passages are 1 Cor. 13:1-8 and Gal. 5:22-23.

MATTHEW 5:3-4


3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted
.

How blessed to overflowing are those who are poor in spirit – does this sound like a contradiction to you? One would suppose the LORD would have said, “Blessed are those who are rich in spirit . . .” but this is not the case.
Exactly who would qualify as being “poor in spirit” and what does this mean exactly?

Spiritual impoverishment is something that all of humanity suffers from because spiritual wealth – holiness, purity, beauty, truth, peace, grace, wisdom and knowledge (and so very much more) are all held in the treasure houses that is God’s own heart! 


As sinners, sold under sin, in bondage to sin and separated from God (and all of the spiritual wealth inherent in His being), we are such poor and beggarly creatures that not only are deficient of such blessedness and riches, but also have the very perverted perception that ‘true riches’ are all about sin and sinful lusts and practices (that old ‘sex and drugs and rock n roll’ or even the devilish idea that ‘it’s MY life and I will live it as I see fit, and if God doesn’t like it, TOO BAD!’).

How then can we who are in such a deplorable condition ever think to be “blessed”? The LORD said of such that “. . . theirs is the kingdom of heaven”!
Of course, it’s those who come to the realization, by the conviction of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7-11) that they are in such a state. In life, knowing and admitting that one has a problem is the first step in getting it solved.

If we humble ourselves by admission of the truth, by such a confession of our guilt, and with genuine repentance the LORD will honor such and respond (Luke 18:9-14; James 4:9-10; 1 Peter 5:4-6).
Conversely, the religious who are sure of their supposed right standing before God, those who are rich in themselves and not of God, those who by pride in their religious accomplishments and deeds – these are those who will never share in the kingdom of heaven (See Luke 18:10-14 for an example of both kinds of people, the humbly repentant and the arrogantly self-righteous). The LORD will address this religious pride later on in this sermon.

This leads us to the second verse in our study – “blessed are they that mourn . . .”

This mourning is not merely regret or ‘feeling bad’ about wrongs committed by ourselves. This sort of grief is far deeper than that. The Greek word pentheo describes the kind of passionate grieving associated with the death of a loved one, or the destruction of one’s homeland. 

It is a grief that encompasses the entire being until the entire consciousness is consumed by such. It is not emotionalism – that would entail the idea that we are made sorry by an appeal to our emotions via the soul (the seat of our emotions) rather than an appeal to the truth of God’s Word convicting our hearts (the central and essential being of who we are).

Such mourning over our sin – for the extreme offense it causes the Holy God Who created us, and for the spiritual poverty and death it has wreaked in our lives – is what this passage is addressing (See also 2 Cor. 7:9-10).

As the model and holy standard for these beatitudes, the One Who alone was able to claim to fulfill the Law; how would the LORD be described as someone who is spiritually poor and in need to mourn for such?
While the LORD Jesus would not Himself have any spiritual poverty of His own, and thus a need to mourn for such a non-existent deficiency, He is our sin bearer and mediator – thus for our own sakes, He became poor (2 Cor. 8:9) and a Man of sorrows (Is. 53:3).

For such sinners then as we, who express this brand of deep, genuine, whole hearted repentance in acknowledging their sin and seeking for God’s forgiveness, these shall “be comforted” that is, they shall “called near, invited, invoked by imploration, . . . to beseech, comfort, exhort; to call to one’s aid”. I am reminded of the LORD’s own words:

MATT. 11:28-29


28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls
(see also John 7:37-38).


To comfort those who mourn is specifically a Messianic mission as spoken of in Isaiah 51:3, 11-12; 61:2-3.

That mission was (and is) intended to take place in what we know as the Millennium (mille – meaning one thousand; ennium – count of years). In these same passages it speaks of the LORD making the “wilderness (of Israel) like Eden” and “her desert like the garden of the LORD.” 

Also in the 61st chapter we read what the LORD Himself quoted (Luke 4:18-19) in reference to His ministry which He engaged in two thousand years ago, and yet from vs. 2 and on it speaks of “vengeance . . . to appoint unto them that mourn in Zion . . . and they shall build the old wastes . . . repair the waste cities . . . strangers shall stand and feed your flocks . . . and you shall eat the riches of the Gentiles . . . For Zion’s sake I will not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth, and the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness and all kings thy glory . . . (Isaiah 62:1-2)”. 

These things have not happened as yet . . . but they will.

Such ministry was to be a part of the rule of the Messiah in Israel, and such would have been the case had the Messiah been received two thousand years ago; but because He was rejected nationally, such ministry is postponed until later (at the Second Advent) when the LORD Jesus will inaugurate His reign alongside of His Gentile bride (the church; Matt. 16:18).


In the meanwhile, the ministry of the LORD involves comforting those who mourn for their sins and bringing assurance to those who have humbled themselves before Him in a spirit of meekness, that such will inherit the earth!

MATTHEW 5:5


5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth
.

Satan took away the stewardship of the earth from Adam who lost it when he fell into sin, subjugating himself and the human race under the enemy’s power; those of this world are ever seeking power and ruler-ship in this world over cities, districts, regions and nations, and now a global oligarchy is assuming power over the entire planet. 


Each of these have used power to take what they would (Nietzsche’s own philosophy of “the will to power”) without any appeal to a higher authority to bequeath such, but seizing upon it for themselves and their own selfish agendas. 


Suppose you were the son of David Rockefeller or one of the Rothschild’s – imagine the sort of inheritance you would come into upon their death as their Last Will and Testament was read! Yet as the result of the New Testament (covenant; see Jer. 31:31; Heb. 8:8) we have a far, far greater inheritance than the mere pittance acquired from the aforementioned trillionaires!


The Maker of heaven and earth will simply deliver this world into the hands of . . . the proud? The arrogant? The selfish? Those that deem themselves gods? No – but to the meek (Ps. 37:11). Again, observe how diametrically opposed God’s ways are to the ways of this Satan-inspired world and how grateful I am that they are! 


Meekness is not weakness by any means! In the Greek it refers to: “mildness of disposition, gentleness of spirit, meekness.


“Meekness toward God is that disposition of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore without disputing or resisting. In the OT, the meek are those wholly relying on God rather than their own strength to defend them against injustice. Thus, meekness toward evil people means knowing God is permitting the injuries they inflict, that He is using them to purify His elect, and that He will deliver His elect in His time (Is. 41:17).” Quote from Scofield’s Commentary on Matthew.

The Messiah, the majestic God Incarnate, Who spoke all of creation into existence with only His spoken Word (thus demonstrating only one aspect of His omnipotence) could have wiped the universe out with another spoken Word when the Roman soldiers scourged the flesh from His bones, plated that crown of thorns on His Holy Head, and nailed Him to that rough hewn and blood stained cross – but He endured those things with meekness.


Great power under total control is part of this meekness; another is absolute surrender to God, leaving our own lives in His capable hands and looking to Him to address wrongs done to us, injustices suffered by us, sufferings endured and dire circumstances placed upon us and doing nothing to defend or save ourselves from such things that are entirely out of our hands any way. The LORD Jesus modeled this for us perfectly!


As the meekest Man in all the world (Matthew 11:29), the LORD Jesus shall inherit all the domains of creation as KING of Kings and LORD of Lords – and we shall partake of such at the grace of our LORD as we exhibit this quality of meekness. In such meekness, there is a rest from strife, from self-preservation, and burdens to ‘fend for ourselves’.

MATTHEW 5:6


6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled
.


Earlier this month I wrote an exhortation FROM the MIND of FIRE entitled A Passionate Thirst for God; please feel free to check this out as we continue in this study of Matthew’s Gospel.

Since much has been stated already in the FMF article above, let me simply say this (as I have quite often before): In a world of empty, sinful mirages, amidst the barren bleak deserts of parched souls – there is an O.A.S.I.S. Only the Almighty Savior Immanuel Satisfies.


We are not merely physical beings; otherwise physical things would satisfy us – but they don’t ultimately. We are not merely mental or emotional beings; otherwise intellectual and experiential things would satisfy us – but ultimately, neither do these satisfy us. 

We are spiritual beings: beings who because of sin are suffering from broken, ruined spirits that are incapable of anything at all in regards to responding to and receiving the LORD.

If you are thirsting and hungering in life, if you find that there is ‘something missing’ (despite the fact that we have tried everything this world has to offer) but the answer proves elusive, know that it’s because you are at heart a spiritual being, and nothing can ever satisfy you except the spiritual, and such spiritual satisfaction can only be acquired through the One Who created your spirit – the LORD Jesus Christ:


JOHN 4:13-14


13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this [physical] water shall thirst again:
14 But whosoever drinketh of the [spiritual] water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life
.



So far we have observed that the poor in spirit will mourn over their condition, and as a result of being comforted, they are grateful, worshipful and full of meekness to the LORD Who has saved them. As a result of this comfort and salvation we find that we are no longer thirsty or hungry for the things of this world – but only such appetites that find satisfaction in the LORD Jesus the Righteous, the Bread of Life Himself is what we hunger and thirst for more of! 


See Isaiah 61:3 and 2 Cor. 9:10 to observe trees and their fruit of righteousness. 

God’s desire is that His righteousness would ‘branch out’ (every pun intended) into all aspects of our lives!

The blessed benefits of the righteousness of Christ in our lives as seen in: 2 Tim. 4:8; James 5:16; 1 Peter 3:12; 1 John 2:1, 29



MATTHEW 5:7


7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy
.



Those of us who have received the grace, mercy and peace from the LORD Jesus Christ have our lives so transformed, that we become a merciful people, people of tender mercies and loving kindness – even to our enemies, having the very character of Christ working in our hearts to fulfill all of His will for us, and through us! In sowing such mercies, we reap more mercy in abundance.


See 2 Sam. 22:26; Psalm 41:1-3; Psalm 112:4-9; Is. 58:9-11.

Remember that justice is receiving what you deserve.
Mercy is the opposite of justice: it’s something you don’t receive that you do deserve.
And grace is that which you receive that you don’t deserve.

The unrepentant sinner will receive God’s justice, and will perish forever in hell!
The repentant sinner will be spared from God’s justice and will not perish in hell!
The repentant sinner will not only receive the mercy of God, but also the grace of God, both via the LORD Jesus Christ – and be blessed by an eternity in heaven as the LORD’s gift of salvation; salvation from hell and for heaven!

Having received this mercy from God, and the Spirit that is working in us along with the Word of God, the ministry of sanctification is operative in our lives – working out the things of the old man, and instilling in our minds that which conforms us to the image of Christ in the new man.


We become purer of mind just as we have been made pure of heart (having that “new heart” as a result of our spiritual rebirth; John 3:3-5; 1 Peter 1:23; Ezekiel 18:31; 36:26).

MATTHEW 5:8

8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God
.

No one can see God and live according to Exodus 33:20. In our natural state, such a visitation would prove our undoing.

Our Father dwells in heaven (Matt. 6:9) and only those who are pure in heart will see Him in the Kingdom that the saints shall inherit; thus the need for the spiritual rebirth, without which no one will enter or even see it! 


This perfection (of purity) is something so entirely alien to our humanity, though mankind strives to obtain it for himself by education, philosophy and esoteric knowledge, by medical and nutritional technology, through exercise; through the obtaining of monetary wealth and power, and what not. 

He is destined for failure in as much as he himself is a failure – a ruination of sin and all the destructive influences contained therein. Were God to enforce the Law that demands such perfection, aside from any aid or intervention on His own part, we would be utterly hopeless to ever see God in His glory.

Therefore God determined by His foreknowledge of all that would transpire from that point of transgression at the tree of knowledge of good and evil that by grace we would be saved (2 Tim. 1:9; Titus 3:5-7; Eph. 2:8-9), and not of works – because no one can in fact, boast of their accomplishments which are absolutely void of any element of goodness and holiness. 


We will never know complete purity experientially while on this Earth, but one day we shall be complete in Christ when we see Him (1 John 3:2) and on that day, we shall experience for the first time in our lives that complete and entire purity that is unmatched by any other, save for the One Who’s purity has been granted to us!

That which was impossible under the commands of the Law, are now possible by the efficacious grace of God delivered to our hearts by the LORD Jesus Christ and His blood atonement and His Spirit! Psalm 24:3-4; Isaiah 1:25-26; 1 Tim. 1:5; 5:22; 1 Peter 1:22; also Eph. 5:27; Hebrews 9:22-26; James 1:27; 2 Pet. 3:14. 


Purity of heart is not a religious drudgery but life and joy and peace in the Holy Spirit! Romans 14:17; 15:13.

For those who know the mercies of the LORD and that such mercies are provided in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and knowing the blessedness of the purification process performed in us by the Holy Spirit, we saints endeavor to proclaim this good news to all far and near, heralding the reconciling peace that God offers to fallen man. Thus we become peace makers.

Thus we complete these first eight verses of the Beatitudes of the LORD Jesus Christ! We shall continue in this sermon on our next occasion of study on TTUF! Until then, may our LORD continue to work His blessed will in and through our lives by the power of His Spirit!
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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW: Ch. 4 - The MESSIAH and HIS KINGDOM MESSAGE

By James Fire


CHAPTER FOUR –

PART ONE

When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, it wasn’t merely the arrival of the Son of God Who would bring the Gospel message to fallen man, for the redemption of souls; it was a Holy Invasion into enemy territory with the intent of defeating Satan, the ruler of the rebel world system, as was promised as early as . . .

GENESIS 3:15

15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.


Satan being expert in the Scriptures, knowing full well what they said, realized the implications of the prophetic Word and understood that the Babe of Bethlehem would be the One to confront him in what would seem to be the Battle of the Ages, the War of all wars, the Supreme Strategy that would end, if he couldn’t stop it, the reign of sin.


Not long after the birth of creation, the enemy had observed Adam and Eve quite carefully. I’m sure before he made his decisive move of deception, approaching the woman with his enticements and allure for godhood – self rule, rather than being ruled by God – he looked long and hard for the weakest spot at the weakest moment. With the weapons in his arsenal he brought the human race to devastation and took out his rival, Adam – whom the LORD God gave stewardship over Earth and Satan obtained it for himself.

Likewise Satan must have watched Jesus throughout His childhood and adult life with singular focus and a keen eye for any sign of weakness whereupon he could launch his attack. When the LORD Jesus took that long, dusty trek from Galilee and into Judea and to the Jordan River, the devil kept vigil and observed this Promised One as He submitted Himself for baptism and heard the Voice of God proclaiming “This is my Beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”

The enemy, no doubt, sat up and took notice as he watched the Spirit of the LORD descend upon Him and then immediately led Him into the wilderness – and Satan would meet Him there.
A celestial audience of angels, holy and evil must have been in attendance for the colossal confrontation between the Messiah of Israel and the god of this world – it would be a ‘winner takes all’ sort of fight.

Satan knew that the Scriptures foretold that the Messiah would one day rule the entire world – the world that he now governed according to his own pernicious precepts and odious ordinances of the kingdom of darkness.
He also observed that Jesus had taken upon a fast that lasted weeks – a fast of forty days would bring a human body to the very edge of starvation.
This Jesus had never, up until that point, exercised His divine powers. For thirty years He lived as a mere commoner, a seemingly feeble human weakling no different than these others that populated the world. The enemy then decided his means of attack . . .


MATTHEW 4:1-3
Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.
3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread
.



Some think that Satan emphasized the word “If . . .” in his temptation, but I have the suspicion that the emphasis was on “. . . GOD . . .”
It was an appeal to Jesus to use His Divine power to gratify His own hunger and this would be a powerful temptation for One Who is the Creator, especially a starving Creator who trembled with the weakness of His denied bodily needs for nourishment; in the blink of an eye He could have transformed that wasteland into mountains of bread. He Who made man from the dust of the earth could easily have done so!
Rather than succumb to this seduction, the Messiah replied, not with a pronouncement of power in rebuking the devil, but with the power of the Word of God!


MATTHEW 4:4

4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God
.


Why did the LORD use the Scriptures rather than His own power to rebuke the devil? I believe there are two primary reasons why. As verse one indicated, this was a testing of the Son of God and the Tempter was utilized by God the Father to do the testing.
If any one could find a flaw (theoretically) – other than the searching Eternal and flaming eyes of God Himself – it would be the chief enemy of God!

The other reason why the LORD answered with the Word of God: As our role model, He would not employ His own power of Deity, for we would obviously be unable to mimic such a demonstration and use power we don’t possess in ourselves.
Yet we could likewise employ the Word of God, the Sword of the Spirit in our own battles against the enemy. And this, according to the admonition of Paul is precisely what we ought to do when confronted by the principalities and powers in the domain of darkness (Eph. 6:17; James 4:7).

Man shall live by bread, that is, his physical body requires physical needs such as sustenance and sleep – just as God designed it, but these should never take priority over spiritual needs and the greatest of these priorities is God Himself, and His Word – the Bread of Life.
Psychology talks about the hierarchy of needs which esteem physical needs over those higher needs as stipulated by God’s Word. Secular wisdom dictates physical needs come first, and later on emotional and spiritual needs once these others are procured.


The LORD Jesus taught the multitudes all sorts of spiritual truth, and at the end of days of such teaching, He turned to His disciples and told them to provide them some food so that they wouldn’t faint on the way back to their own homes (Matt. 15:31-39)! He told them to seek FIRST the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and then all these other (physical needs) will be added especially unto such (Matt. 6:25-31) by God that brings rain upon all and opens His hand to meet provisions for all the inhabitants of the Earth.

Note what the LORD said, “. . . but by EVERY word . . . of . . . GOD” which tells us that there should never be ‘New Testament only’ Christians, or those who deem little value in prophetic Scripture or those who would esteem extra-biblical and apocryphal books as having spiritual value. This verse in our text also testifies to the inspiration of the Scriptures, for the LORD stated, that that which proceeded out of the mouth of God, was written down in Scripture such as Deuteronomy 8:3 which the LORD quoted here.

The base needs of man, and the enemy’s temptation to satiate His flesh failed Satan who then moved on to a greater temptation to assail the Son of God with . . .


MATTHEW 4:5-7
5 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple,
6 And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God
.



Note here that Satan engages in some repartee; he has seen that Jesus used the Word of God to deny both the temptation as well as the ideology of such worldly, fleshly thinking and motivations, so now as he took the LORD up to the pinnacle of the Temple, he challenges Jesus to cast Himself down, because, after all . . . “it is written . . .” and he quoted Psalm 91:11-12; yet if one reads this passage in context, the meaning is far different than that which the devil employed. He basically took this out of context – something that Satan has done repeatedly as far back as the Garden of Eden.

Psalm 91 is all about how the LORD God will protect Israel in any dangers that present themselves to His people; this was NOT a license for any one, much less the Servant of YHWH to act presumptuously and commit an act that would seem to force God to move in order to protect a daring fool.

Imagine if the LORD Jesus had done as Satan had bid; such a sight of a man plummeting down from that pinnacle, only to come to rest mere inches off the ground, held up by invisible forces and then gently set down would be a miracle that would have won Him instant notoriety and fame . . . but He did not come to please Himself, but firstly and always to please the Father (John 8:29) and secondarily to minister to the needs of humanity, namely, the great need of salvation.

There are some that state, and with considerable justification, that in vs. 7 the LORD is admitting to His own Deity, that is, Satan is putting “the LORD thy GOD (the SON) to a foolish test”. The first temptation that appealed to the flesh and its needs failed; the second temptation to appeal to the ego likewise failed. The enemy had one last temptation that no doubt, he considered to be the ‘Ace up his sleeve’ . . .


MATTHEW 4:8-11
8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;
9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.
10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
11 Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him
.



I wonder which “high mountain” the devil took our LORD to. And how was it that he showed the LORD all the kingdoms of the world? Was it a vision that Satan gave to Him or what? Nothing in the text shows exactly what happened either way, we only know that by some means, Satan revealed all the kingdoms of the world to Jesus.


Imagine the pomp and splendor of all those kingdoms, but what no doubt grabbed Jesus’ interest even more, were the souls that populated those cities. After all, this was the very reason why He came, why the Father sent Him – for Their love for this world of lost and miserable and wretched souls.


And the devil was ready to deliver them all into the hands of Jesus, for Him to rule over – and without a bloody, messy, painful cross to endure. Isn’t this just like our great enemy! He often tempts us with things for us to enjoy in the here and now, rather than having us go the long road – to deny ourselves, and pleasures and fulfillments – so that the LORD may be glorified by our obedience to His will. 

Often we must endure a cross of our own, and that’s when the enemy whispers in our ear to have sympathy for ourselves; he speaks the same words to us as he did through the lips of Peter (‘Oh no, let this never be! Don’t allow this terrible thing to happen to you!’ Matt. 16:22).

Satan offering the world to the LORD (on a sin-stained platter?) would be an empty boast if he didn’t actually own the world (2 Cor. 4:4); yet he procured it when Adam succumbed to temptation and thereby abdicated stewardship over the world government of which he was the head.
Elsewhere the Word declares:


PSALM 24:1-2
The earth is the LORD's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.
2 For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods
.


Is there a contradiction here? Not at all; God is the Only True Creator God. Satan or any other created being for that matter, cannot create anything in the sense that God can; He alone created (“barah” to create from nothing) the Earth, the World and all that is in it – from nothing other than His spoken Word. Satan for the last approximately 6,000 years as been a ‘god’ or ruler over this world system of governments and those agencies, organizations and productions that are contained in the realm of sinful man as well as those principalities and powers that followed him in the rebellion against the Almighty (a very dumb move!).

Observe now how the terrible power of sin can blind and mar that which was the most magnificent of all God’s celestial creations – Lucifer who “sealed up the sum” (Ez. 28:12-15) when it came to wisdom and beauty! The audacity and bold foolishness of this finite creature, in the full grasp of iniquity, stands before his Creator – the One Who holds the heavens in the span of His hand – and beckons Him to fall down . . . and worship him??!

(Another will receive such an offer from Satan, and for the price of Luciferian worship, the Beast shall inherit by the devil’s hand, that which the LORD spurned.)

This is the same kind of foolishness that prompts the perdition within the heart of man to declare that ‘there is no God’ (Psalm 14:1), all the while beholding the enormous intricacies and dizzying details on both the macro-cosmic and the microscopic levels, all of which is a visible testament to the creative genius and power of God (See Psalm 19:1-6)!

Now let’s hear the LORD’s response to Satan’s third temptation:

He finally tells Satan to “get out of here” but with a directive right back to Scripture:

“You shall worship the LORD God and Him only you shall serve”!

There is only One Who is worthy of our worship: God and Him alone! Anything or anyone that is a higher priority in our lives is an idol and it must be cast down without remorse, and leave the LORD alone upon the high throne of our hearts! 

We must ravage any sign or indication of anything that would rival our LORD as being supreme in our lives (As I have heard many times from Chuck Missler, “The LORD doesn’t want to be number One on a list of ten. He wants to be number One on a list of one!”). 
We must be as tenacious and adamant in ridding our hearts and lives of any affection or desires that would seek to usurp the LORD for His rightful place and priority! We must fulfill what I have called The Josiah Mandate.


Did you know that when the LORD replied to Satan’s temptations, not only did He resort to the use of the Scriptures, but every citation He quoted from was from a single book of the Bible – Deuteronomy!

The first temptation He replied with Deut. 8:3.
The second temptation He replied with Deut. 6:16.
The third temptation He replied with Deut. 6:13.

Why would He limit Himself to the use of this single book?

I don’t really have a solid answer for that question; just a hunch really. When Moses was prepared to send the people of Israel off into Canaan land (Moses himself, as you recall, was forbidden to cross Jordan and into the land promised by God), the Law giver recited what was formerly given in the book of Exodus to his people. Reason being, there was a new generation at that time that wasn’t alive during the exodus from Egypt and a reiteration was in order.
They were apparently in need of a reminder that once they crossed the Jordan, they would be entering into a land full of pagan people and practices. Much of Deuteronomy is full of warnings to remain in obedience to the LORD and His Word, and not to adopt the practices of worshipping the false gods of the nations. Note especially Deuteronomy 28.

Those false gods would have demonic powers acting ‘behind the scenes’ to give legitimacy to the so-called glory and reality of those pagan deities (1 Cor. 8:4-5; 1 Cor. 10:19-21); and bowing down to those demonic powers is by proxy, bowing down to Satan himself. Thus, a rather appropriate book for the LORD to quote from considering who His opponent was, wouldn’t you say?

Verse 11 says that the devil left him; all of God’s holy angels perhaps let out a collective sigh of relief followed by a crescendo of glorious praise for the victory of their LORD – and yet the Gospel of Luke 4:13 adds one point to this, that the devil left him “… for a while”. The enemy would return and tempt the Messiah again to turn from the path that the Father set Him on, but in far more subtle ways than a ‘showdown in the desert’.

Yet in every encounter, at every scrutiny for the slightest semblance of sin, the enemy could find nothing in Him (John 14:30). He is the spotless Lamb of God!


1 PETER 1:18-20
18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers;
19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you
,
See also Isaiah 53:9; John 8:46; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 7:26; 1 Pet. 2:22

Angels came and ministered to the LORD – and one must wonder what it was that they did for Him? Provide transportation from off that “exceedingly high mountain” perhaps? He had just finished a forty day fast; maybe they provided sustenance (Angel Food Cake perhaps? – sorry).

PART TWO -

MATTHEW 4:12-16
12 Now when Jesus had heard that John was cast into prison, he departed into Galilee;
13 And leaving Nazareth, he came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is upon the sea coast, in the borders of Zabulon and Nephthalim:
14 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying,
15 The land of Zabulon, and the land of Nephthalim, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles;
16 The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up
.

The Scriptures give us a kind of ‘fast forward’ because here we see that the LORD is no longer on the mountain and He heard about John the Baptist being cast into prison by Herod (later on in Matt. 14:2-5 the reason is explained).

The LORD went to His hometown of Nazareth*, and then left there to go to Capernaum which became one of His primary bases of operation, and this of course was a fulfillment of prophecy, for this city was within the regions of Zabulon and Nephthalim of which it is said:

(*Luke 4:16-19 reveals that while in Nazareth, the LORD went into His customary synagogue and read the passage from Isaiah 61:1-2a (but not 2b) and declared that this very passage was being fulfilled on the very day He read it (obviously fulfilled by Himself) denoting Himself as “the anointed One” or Messiah. He didn’t continue reading after “to preach the acceptable year of the LORD” because the rest of what we call ‘verse two’ refers to that time of vengeance when the Messiah as “the avenger of blood” (Deut. 19:6-12; Josh. 20:3-9) would seek out judgment against all who persecuted (and killed) His brethren, of the nation of Israel.).


ISAIAH 9:1-2
Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations.
2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined
.
See also Isaiah 42:6-8

After 400 years of prophetic silence (for that was how long Israel had been without a prophet of God (Malachi) to speak on behalf of YHWH) the people who sat in such darkness were met, not by only prophet of God, but by God Himself in Whom is no darkness, neither shadow of turning, but Light in all its Holiest brilliance! See John 1:4-5, 9; 3:18-20; 2 Cor. 4:5-7; James 1:17; 1 John 1:5.


MATTHEW 4:17-22
17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
18 And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.
19 And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
20 And they straightway left their nets, and followed him.
21 And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them.
22 And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him
.



The message was the same from the lips of our LORD as John the Baptist’s; the same as all the prophets of Israel who had gone before. Yet as with those prophets, against such the people of Israel hardened their hearts, so also with the God Who spoke through those prophets did they (with some significant and blessed exceptions of course!) harden their hearts (Matt. 13:15).

Nevertheless, the message went forth – to repent of sin, to turn from wicked ways (1 Sam. 12:20; 2 Chron. 7:14; Neh. 9:35; Jer. 44:5; Ez. 3:19; 18:21, 24, 27; 33:9, 11, 14 and 19) and have the faith of Abraham who “believed God” (Gal. 3:6; note: not merely believing IN God, but believing Him, that is, believing His Word – obeying and acting on it).

Yet in today’s church, the Gospel without repentance is going forth; people are reciting ‘sinner’s prayers’ but living unchanged, unfruitful, ungodly lives and with the false assurance that all is well because, after all, I said a prayer.

We at TTUF are not opposed to ‘sinner’s prayers’ but there should be an emphasis of repentance included and a surrendering of one’s life: for if redemption is real – there is the spiritual reality that we are no longer our own, that we are the LORD’s upon our conversion. No longer are we living our lives for ourselves, but for the One Who purchased us with His own blood (Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 6:19-20).


Whether one who says the ‘sinner’s prayer’ is genuinely saved is also not known by any observer (except for God of course) until fruit is in evidence, that is evidence of a changed nature and life and altered desires and hungers (a hunger to learn God’s Word, to pray, to fellowship with other believers; and a desire to rid one’s life of sins that grieve the Holy Spirit). See Matt. 3:10. Until such evidence is manifest, how can anyone truly declare another to be saved with absolute certainty?

As the Messiah of Israel proceeded in His preaching of repentance, declaring that the Kingdom was at hand (for it was the King Himself heralding the message!), He came across two men, engaged in their profession as fishers. He called to them to follow Him and take keen notice of that one word: “straightway”! 



They didn’t deliberate, they didn’t hold conference between themselves, they didn’t negotiate terms with the LORD – straightway they left their nets.
They abandoned the profession that they no doubt trained all their lives in, to the point of proficiency and gain. Yet, apparently they didn’t give those nets a second glance, or their boats, or their catch of the day.
Peter and Andrew sought first (as a matter of priority) the kingdom of God and His righteousness, counting on the LORD, that He would meet their necessaries at the times to come.

Later on when the LORD was addressed by the rich young ruler, who turned aside from following Him – because he had great possessions, Peter spoke up:


LUKE 18:28-29
28 Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee.
29 And He said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God's sake,
30 Who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting
.



A little ways down the shore of Galilee the LORD along with Peter and Andrew, came across James and John and when the LORD likewise beckoned to them, the same results:

“Immediately…” and not only did they leave nets, but also their own father to follow Jesus!

In the Christian life this is always the case. In order to follow the LORD, we must leave behind the things of this world (not absolving ourselves of our responsibilities necessarily, particularly where our families are concerned) that would prove to be impediments to life with our Redeemer Friend. “All to Jesus, I surrender; all to Him I freely give!”

We give the LORD all of our hearts, all of our souls, all of our minds and all of our strength (Matt. 22:37) with the motive of agapeo love (unconditional, loyal, selfless love whose focus is entirely surrendered to the object of that love) – and why is that? Because the LORD loved us first – with all of His Being (1 John 4:19). And He proved that love as being the Highest and Greatest: by dying on that cross in Judea, more than two thousand years ago (John 15:13)!


MATTHEW 4:23-25
23 And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.
24 And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatick, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.
25 And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan
.



What is the “gospel of the kingdom” exactly? Is it “the kingdom of God”? Remember that the Gospel of Matthew presents Jesus as the MESSIAH-KING of Israel, and in light of this fact, this is a clue as to what the LORD was preaching here.

We have a gracious and compassionate LORD Who always leaves a crowd with their sick ones healed. No one ever remained sick who knew the presence of Jesus! Yet these miraculous healings had a specific purpose as well; they were evidence that the LORD Jesus is indeed the Messiah, because these things were prophesied.

There are ample Scriptures that speak of the time when Messiah will come and establish His kingdom, righting every wrong that was suffered by Israel at the hand of her many oppressors from among the nations, and at such a time, He will bring healing and restoration to His people as well as a replenishing of the Earth itself. We see both aspects in such passages as these:


ISAIAH 35:1-10
The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.
2 It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the LORD, and the excellency of our God.
3 Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.
4 Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.
5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
6 Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.
7 And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes.
8 And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.
9 No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there:
10 And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away
.
(See also: 2 Sam. 7:10-17; Psalm 89:3-4, 18-37; Isaiah 40:9-11; 61:1-11; 62:1-12 among so many other passages)



Virtually every book of the prophets of Israel came with warnings of judgment and chastening upon the people in their rebellion; yet they were never left despondent in such pronouncements. The LORD gave the Word to His prophets regarding the restoration of the kingdom in the latter days and if you turn to the last page(s) of the minor prophets you will see such exhortations such as Haggai 2:8-9, 20-23 and Zechariah 14:4-11, 16-21.


After the LORD’s resurrection the disciples asked their Messiah if He would then at that time “restore again the kingdom to Israel” as the LORD had promised to David by Covenant. The LORD didn’t deny that Israel’s kingdom would be restored (as some of the Replacement Theology sort like to say) but that its timing was in the Father’s keeping (Acts 1:6-7).



Dr. Scofield has the following to say regarding the Davidic Covenant a.k.a. the Kingdom of Israel:


The Davidic Covenant


2 Samuel 7:8-17.
This covenant, upon which the glorious kingdom of Christ "of the seed of David according to the flesh" is to be founded, secures:


(1) A Davidic "house"; i.e. posterity, family
(2) A "throne"; i.e. royal authority
(3) A kingdom; i.e. sphere of rule
(4) In perpetuity; "for ever"
(5) And this fourfold covenant has but one condition: disobedience in the Davidic family is to be visited with chastisement; but not to the abrogation of the covenant 2 Samuel 7:15; Psalms 89:20-37; Isaiah 24:5; 54:3.


The chastisement fell; first in the division of the kingdom under Rehoboam, and, finally, in the captivities. 2 Kings 25:1-7 . Since that time but one King of the Davidic family has been crowned at Jerusalem and He was crowned with thorns. But the Davidic Covenant confirmed to David by the oath of Jehovah, and renewed to Mary by the angel Gabriel, is immutable Psalms 89:30-37 and the Lord God will yet give to that thorn-crowned One "the throne of his father David." ; Luke 1:31-33; Acts 2:29-32; 15:14-17. 



Thus when we read about the Gospel in Matthew’s account, its specifically in regards to the Gospel as it pertains to Israel and the reign of the Messiah over all those Jews who have “like faith as Abraham”, that is spiritual Israel (Note: Gentiles that are born again are NOT spiritual Israel as some might say, they are spiritual Gentiles. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph along with Elijah, Elisha, Samuel, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist – these are spiritual Israel. Those who refused the Messiah Y’shua are a part of national Israel (ethnically speaking “of the seed of Abraham”) but are not children of Abraham.

While we as Gentiles are ‘grafted in’ to the olive tree (Israel), which were by nature a “wild olive tree” that is distinct from Israel, but we share in the blessing of salvation via the LORD Jesus Christ by faith (See Romans 11:16-24).
It’s because the LORD Jesus was primarily rejected by Israel as a nation that the kingdom was not restored at that time, but the promises of God stand sure so that when the LORD returns to this world (after Daniel’s 70th week (Daniel 9:24-27), also known as the Time of Jacob’s Trouble (Jeremiah 30:6-8) He will inaugurate the Kingdom by His own power (Daniel 2:44-46) – and without the help of ‘the church’ (a popular teaching among Dominionist groups as well as the Emergent Church Movement, and even in a rudimentary way, the New Age Movement (with their New Age ‘Christ’ as described in the writings of Alice Bailey; Barbara Marx Hubbard, Jean Dixon and Neale Donald Walsh).



Now, getting back to the Gospel of Matthew – there are liberal theologians that disdain the ‘old fashioned notion’ of demon possession and rationalize such as merely mental illness. What’s interesting is that in this passage those who were possessed of demons are differentiated from those who were “lunatick” (though sometimes a person was afflicted with both, see Matt. 17:15).

The fact that the spiritual dimension is a reality as the Bible describes, attests to the reality of both angels and fallen angels (demons) and even various classifications of angelic beings such as arch angels, cherubim, and designations of offices for angelic beings like principalities and powers, thrones, dominions, etc. (Eph. 6:12; Col. 1:16). Demonic spirits are quite real, and as these current days continue to become spiritually darker, we can expect that such spiritual activity will increase dramatically, and so knowledge of the armor of God and spiritual warfare (of the legitimate kind) is essential for this reason and many others. For more on this subject, type “armor of God” and “spiritual warfare” in the search engine on TTUF.


Lastly we observe the far range of traveling that people endured in those days in meeting with the Messiah and hearing His message, as well as receiving healings from their varied and extreme ailments. They came as far as Decapolis and other regions beyond the Jordan River; this was no trivial pursuit!
People were hungry for the Word of God, and they were in desperate need. The hope they held in their hearts was that this One, who claimed to be the Messiah of Israel would be able to help, and so He did! Picture for a moment the vastness of these great multitudes and how many required healing – and the LORD in His Almighty power brought by the droves, deliverance to them all!

As was prophesied, the Messiah would bring healing to His people, He would bring the promised restoration to the Kingdom, and He would also preach the Gospel to these lost souls (as well as teach His disciples) and we are about to enter that phase of this Gospel account where the King begins to lay out the principles and truths of “the kingdom of/from heaven” in the next chapter, starting immediately with the Beattitudes!
Read more!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

The LAST DAYS of LAWLESSNESS – TIME of the SIGNS

By James Fire

THE KING THAT DWELLS OUTSIDE CHRONOLOGY –

The ETERNAL GOD is not subject to time or space, and therefore is well able to observe past, present and future events simultaneously and knows all things before they happen; whereas we who are creatures (both human and angelic) bound within the confines of the space/time continuum, when left to ourselves, see the present, remember the past, and can only guess at the future.

This is where the Holy Bible leaves all other religious books that claim authenticity as the works of Deity behind; the Scriptures audaciously speak of future events before they ever happen because the Author of these Scriptures has ‘been there, done that’.


ISAIAH 46:9-10
9 Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:

God is the only One Who can make that boast. Earlier in ISAIAH the LORD taunts the false gods of the nations and challenges them to foretell the future (if they can!):

Read more!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

The GOSPEL ACCORDING TO MATTHEW: Ch. 3 - The MESSIAH and HIS KINGDOM MESSAGE

By James Fire

CHAPTER THREE –

At this time I would like to resort to Dr. Scofield’s notes and provide the thematic outline on Matthew’s Gospel that he produced:

"THEME: The scope and purpose of the book are indicated in the first verse. Matthew is the "book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David; the Son of Abraham" (Matthew 1:1). This connects him at once with two of the most important of the Old Testament Covenants: the Davidic Covenant of kingship (2 Samuel 7:8-16), and the Abrahamic Covenant of promise (Genesis 15:18).

"Of Jesus Christ in that twofold character, then, Matthew writes. Following the order indicated in the first verse, he writes first of the King, the son of David; then of the Son of Abraham, obedient unto death, according to the Isaac type Genesis 22:1-18; Hebrews 11:17-19.

"But the prominent character of Christ in Matthew is that of the covenanted King, David's "righteous Branch" Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15. Matthew records His genealogy; His birth in Bethlehem the city of David, according to Micah 5:2, the ministry of His forerunner according to Malachi 3:1. His rejection by Israel; and His predictions of His second coming in power and great glory.
"Only then (Matthew chapters 26-28) does Matthew turn to the earlier covenant, and record the sacrificial death of the son of Abraham.
This determines the purpose and structure of Matthew. It is peculiarly the Gospel for Israel; and, as flowing from the death of Christ, a Gospel for the whole world.

"Matthew falls into three principal divisions:
1) The manifestation to Israel and rejection of Jesus Christ the Son of David, born King of the Jews, 1:1-25:46.

"The subdivisions of this part are:

1. The official genealogy and birth of the King, 1:1-25;
2. The infancy and obscurity of the King, 2:1-23;
3. The kingdom "at hand," 3:1-12:50 (the order of events of this subdivision is indicated in the text);
4. The mysteries of the kingdom, 13:1-52;
5. The ministry of the rejected King, 13:53-23:39;
6. The promise of the King to return in power and great glory, 24:1-25:46.

2) The sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of Abraham, 26:1-28:8.

3) The risen Lord in ministry to His own, 28:9-20.
The events recorded in Matthew cover a period of 38 years (Ussher)."

So with this overview in mind let us proceed and examine the doctrinal issue of the Kingdom "at hand," (3:1-12:50) beginning with the third chapter of this glorious Gospel account of the KING of ISRAEL!


MATTHEW 3:1-2
In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea,
2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand
.

The KINGDOM is near because the KING Himself has come! The Mashiach Nagid, the Messiah King, He Who is Ruler in Israel, Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of David! The nation has only but to acknowledge their King and submit themselves to Him for all things to transpire in accordance to God’s will.

Israel was expecting the Messiah to come at that time . . . however, they believed He was coming as a conquering King, a LORD of battle to free them from their enemies (contemporaneously, the Roman Empire) according to the Scriptures. It was a valid claim on the part of Israel’s leaders, however, they neglected the other Scriptures that spoke of the Suffering Servant and relegated them to ‘another Messiah’ Mashiach ben Yosef rather than the conquering King, Mashiach ben Dawid. This idea of two Messiahs is something that is commonly believed among many Jews today, and also in antiquity (modern concepts among religious Jews today don’t even believe that the Messiah is Deity! We have an apologetic on the Deity of Jesus Christ on TTUF; simply use the search engine and type “Jesus is God” to read this series):

“Messiah ben Joseph -
“Finally, there must be mentioned a Messianic figure peculiar to the rabbinical apocalyptic literature—that of Messiah ben Joseph. The earliest mention of him is in Suk. 52a, b, where three statements occur in regard to him, for the first of which R. Dosa (c. 250) is given as authority. In the last of these statements only his name is mentioned, but the first two speak of the fate which he is to meet, namely, to fall in battle (as if alluding to a well-known tradition). Details about him are not found until much later, but he has an established place in the apocalypses of later centuries and in the midrash literature—in Saadia's description of the future ("Emunot we-De'ot," ch. viii.) and in that of Hai Gaon ("Ṭa'am Zeḳenim," p. 59). According to these, Messiah b. Joseph will appear prior to the coming of Messiah b. David; he will gather the children of Israel around him, march to Jerusalem, and there, after overcoming the hostile powers, reestablish the Temple-worship and set up his own dominion. Thereupon Armilus, according to one group of sources, or Gog and Magog, according to the other, will appear with their hosts before Jerusalem, wage war against Messiah b. Joseph, and slay him. His corpse, according to one group, will lie unburied in the streets of Jerusalem; according to the other, it will be hidden by the angels with the bodies of the Patriarchs, until Messiah b. David comes and resurrects him (comp. Jew. Encyc. i. 682, 684 [§§ 8 and 13]; comp. also Midr. Wayosha' and Agadat ha-Mashiaḥ in Jellinek, "B. H." i. 55 et seq., iii. 141 et seq.).”

Jewish Encyclopedia on the Messiah

We understand that there aren’t two Messiahs but rather One that comes to Israel twice. This wasn’t something immediately clear in the Old Testament Scriptures that speak of both warrior King Who was joyously received and Suffering servant Who was despised and rejected of men, but in hind sight, we see this clearly in such passages as . . .

ISAIAH 61:1-2
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all that mourn
;

And on the day appointed when the LORD Jesus read from this portion of Scripture in the synagogue, He read everything up to the part where “. . . the day of vengeance of our God” is spoken of. He left off this latter part and declared:

LUKE 4:20-21
20 And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.
21 And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears
.

Note what He says here: “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears” which strongly suggests that from half way through the 2nd verse in Isaiah 61 and on, will be fulfilled at a later time, but not then.

The same two fold fulfillment (one immediate during the earthly ministry of the LORD Jesus at the First Advent; the other later on, during the Millennial reign after His Second Advent) can be seen in such passages as:

ZECHARIAH 9:9-10
9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.
10 And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off: and he shall speak peace unto the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth
.

Of course we all recollect the time when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the colt while the crowds cheered and proclaimed, “Hosanna in the Highest” two thousand years ago. Verse 9 then was fulfilled, but not verse 10 and onward. Only one verse away from vs. 9, and yet more than two thousand years separates this first aspect in prophecy from the second. From the time that the Messiah was revealed, to the time He will come to “rule over the house of Jacob” (Luke 1:33), there is that time spoken of regarding rejection and suffering (Psalm 22, Isaiah 53) . . .

For more on this consider Acts 7:1-60 and the declaration of Stephen; in this chapter Stephen points out the fact that Joseph (a biblical type* of Christ) was initially rejected by his brothers, but later this young man who had endured such rejection and subsequent suffering was exalted, second only to Pharaoh of Egypt. When his brothers came to Egypt, their brother was revealed, and accepted by them, and just as Joseph foreknew (by the Spirit of God) they bowed down before him.
Thus, Stephen was attempting to say that just as Israel had only recently rejected their King, they would one day, bow down and receive the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth. It was this assertion that the Sanhedrin vehemently rejected which led to the martyrdom of this young man whose faith in Christ was unshakeable!


*Ironside on Biblical types of Christ - Joseph: A Type of Christ

So we return to the Baptist who is the forerunner of the Messiah, soon to be revealed to Israel:


MATTHEW 3:3-6
3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
4 And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey.
5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan,
6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins
.

John preached repentance, and turned the hearts of many to the LORD and to one another, just as was prophesied of him (Luke 1:17; 1 Kings 21:20); he prepared the hearts of the people to meet their Messiah and once He arrived on the scene, John rightly said, “He must increase, I must decrease” (John 3:30).

Roads in those ancient days could easily fall into disrepair and so regular maintenance would be necessary (until the Romans built a system with the technology of their day that made for resilient roads, some of which are still in use today!). Especially if a dignitary such as a general or a king would be soon arriving. The coming Messiah would likewise have the way prepared for Him by the ministry of John the Baptist (Isaiah 40:3). But these people had no such smooth roads to walk in order to get to the Jordan River from all parts of the nation of Israel, but still they came, hungry for a word from the LORD – after a period of silence from any prophet of God for about four hundred years!

Incidentally, John the Baptist was declared the greatest among all the prophets by no one other than the Messiah Himself, the very Inspirer of the prophets of Israel, the very Word that they proclaimed to the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and for very particular reasons. We covered this in an article FROM the MIND of FIRE.

The message the Baptist gave was one of repentance and it so closely matched the message of the Messiah, that the identity of these two men were sometimes confused by the people of Israel, the one for the other (they were cousins after all and probably bore some resemblance to each other).

The call to repentance is hardly heard these days among the churches across America; the ‘easy believism’ of merely saying words in a sinner’s prayer seems to be the basis for determining who and what a Christian is.
Yet without acknowledging our sinful state, that we are by nature “children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3; 5:6), and that we must turn away from such a sinful existence and turn to the LORD with a full heart of surrender and receive by faith the Person of Christ Jesus our LORD and SAVIOR, producing the fruit of repentance and of salvation, what assurance can there possibly be of a true conversion?

Even so, in today’s popular churches (if even a call to salvation via Christ Jesus and His atoning work on the Cross is made) a simple prayer is said, and at its conclusion the announcement that those who said such a prayer are actually saved is made!

The word “repentance” is metanaeo in the Greek’ literally “a new change” that is, to think differently; to morally reconsider; to change one’s mind or purpose, always involving a change for the better. There are three steps integral to metanaeo

1) The reception of new knowledge – the Gospel

2) Regret for the previous course, displeasure at such with self – conviction of sin.

3) A change of action – following the LORD of Righteousness, not after our own way of sin.


John baptized those who heard and received his message, hearing this new knowledge: that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand”. Those who were convicted of their sins against God repented and then decided to turn and follow the LORD.


MATTHEW 3:7-10
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:
9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire
.

I don’t believe John was very polite in his tone of voice or demeanor when confronting the corrupt religious establishment that came out to see him; they were obligated by the Law to investigate any prophets that claimed to speak for God and protect the people from false prophets.

A rather ironic situation really when one considers who the ‘bad guys’ were and the fact that John the Baptist, a true prophet, the greatest prophet was sent to lambaste these false shepherds that cared more for themselves and their positions of power than for care of God’s sheep (a parallel situation can be found in Ezekiel’s 34th Chapter).

Just as the prophet Ezekiel indicated, that because these false shepherds were unfaithful in their stewardship over God’s flock Israel, the LORD Himself would assume the whole ministry for the nation (Psalm 23):

EZEKIEL 34:11-12
11 For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out.
12 As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day
.

The context of this chapter speaks of the sheepfold that was delivered into captivity and later brought back into their own land (vs. 13); nevertheless the principle holds true generations later when the people were in fact in the land, and the leaders in the Sanhedrin revealed the same kind of heart as these false shepherds!

These leaders were smugly confident that they were in good standing with the LORD based solely on their lineage to Abraham (and adherence to the Law which was given by God to reveal sin, not establish righteousness; see Romans 10:2-4), but as Paul the apostle later stated, not all are Israel who are of Israel (Romans 9:5-8) – that is, even though they may have a physical lineage to Abraham the Patriarch, it was the spiritual faith of Abraham and those who had “like faith as Abraham” that were in fact in good standing with the LORD.

John goes so far as to call these religious leaders a “generation of vipers”! Serpents in the OT Scriptures are a representation for sin based on (Gen. Ch. 3) and was demonstrated when the children of Israel murmured and complained in the wilderness and as a chastening, the LORD sent fiery (poisonous) serpents in their midst (Num. 21:5-9); the remedy was for Moses to construct a brass serpent that any who looked upon were healed! Later on the LORD Jesus relates His ministry of atonement with this very incident involving Moses and the children of Israel (John 3:14). This allegation of being called a generation of vipers rather than a faithful generation was not lost on the Pharisees and Sadducees!

The Baptist asked them who warned them to “flee from the wrath to come?” Certainly such wrath will come upon all unrepentant sinners, upon the self-righteous religious sort, upon each and every one who refuses to receive Jesus Christ and His Gospel (2 Thess.1:7-9).

To summarize John the Baptists rebuke – without good fruit of repentance, the tree along with the root will be cut down and cast into the fire. This message needs to be declared in our modern day churches!

MATTHEW 3:11-12
11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance. But he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:
12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire
.

Baptism was not unheard of in Israel as under the Law, the High Priest would be cleansed first by water then by sacrifice before officiating in his ministry (Ex. 29:4-7); baptism is a method of identification with the LORD (and with the people as well, for the priests in their work of mediation), it is an act of repentance from sin for those who acknowledge their offences before the Holy God.

This was the ministry of John the Baptist, in calling people to repentance; to prepare their hearts to meet with their LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob Who was soon to be revealed as the WORD made flesh. John addressed the people in saying that He for Whom the Baptist was not even worthy to be a menial servant of, would arrive afterwards and baptize them with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

This was promised by the LORD and spoken of by John the apostle (John 7:37-39) and was realized after the resurrection of the LORD (John 20:19-22).

There are some that equate the Holy Spirit with this “fire” that John the Baptist spoke of; others see a distinction between them, identifying those who are saved being baptized with the Holy Spirit and those who are damned being baptized with fire (as in Gehenna).

The latter view seems to have some substantiation based on the next verse in our text (vs. 12, which may be associated with the preceding verse: 7) regarding the “burn[ing] up the chaff with unquenchable fire”; the former view also has some credence based on Acts 2:4 where those so baptized had cloven tongues of fire come upon them (also Deuteronomy 4:24; Hebrews 12:29 states that God is a consuming fire; fire being the means of both purification and destruction depending on that which is subject to it, i.e., saints who are purified, sinners that are ruined. Also the works of the believers, whether they are of God or not; 1 Cor. 3:12-15).

I can see how both views may be correct; that the saints are indeed baptized with the Holy Spirit whose fire brings a purity in the life of the believer, but that this holy fire is also the means of judgment upon the lost for having rejected the LORD and His salvation and are thus ruined.

Teaching in Scripture that deals with baptism shows clearly that this “baptism unto repentance” that first began with John the Baptist and later continued on by Christ (whose disciples did the actual baptizing) is representative of the repentant sinner being buried (identified) with Christ, and being dead to sin, is then raised to new life just as Christ Himself was resurrected from the dead. It is a proclamation and a witness of spiritual reality that has transpired in the heart of a newly born saint who has been ushered into the kingdom of God (John 3:3, 5; 1 Peter 1:23) as a new creature in Christ (2 Cor. 5:16-18; Gal. 6:14-16).

For a competent explanation of water baptism and its purpose, I refer to C.A.R.M.

Baptism and 1 Peter 3:21

Also Baptism and Mark 16:16.

(Note: TTUF does not necessarily agree with everything stated in these articles, particularly where a defense is made regarding “most ancient manuscripts” and the assumption that ‘oldest is best’; the issue of water baptism on a Scriptural basis in denial of the false doctrine of baptismal regeneration is the focus and reason for sharing these articles).


MATTHEW 3:13-15
13 Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him.
14 But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?
15 And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him
.

Since John was officiating over this baptism unto repentance, one must ask why the LORD Jesus came and submitted Himself to this deed since He is in truth, the spotless Lamb of God without any blemish of sin (1 Peter 1:18-20; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:14-15). The LORD’s answer to John’s protest was that they must “fulfill all righteousness”.

Since there is no direct explanation for this deed, we will examine these four possibilities:

1) As previously mentioned, the commencement of an office under Old Testament Law often involved baptism such as the High Priest. The LORD Jesus Christ is of course a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek; He is also the Prophet of God that Moses alluded to (Deut. 18:15); likewise He is the great King of Israel. All three offices were also anointed with oil to inaugurate their respective ministries.

2) This action on the LORD’s part can be attributable to the revelation given to John the Baptist, that he would see the Holy Spirit descend upon He Who is the Son of God (John 1:29-34), thus the ratification by the Spirit that attests to Jesus being the Messiah, anointed by the Spirit of the LORD as mentioned already in the text of Isaiah Ch. 61 (and we will elaborate on this in Ch. 4 of Matthew’s Gospel).

3) Being baptized along side those of Israel who were repenting of their sins, He could be identifying and relating to them as the sacrificial Lamb of God (Isaiah 53:12; 2 Cor. 5:21) who would bear their sins.

4) In a prophetic sense, He was looking forward to His own death and resurrection and the “baptism” of His own sufferings (Matt. 20:22).

I can see how all four perspectives can be valid, and believe that they indeed are valid. The following verses are likewise profound when one carefully considers them:


MATTHEW 3:16-17
16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased
.

John the Baptist testified that he didn’t know who the Messiah was until God told him the sign that would indicate Him, and it was at that point that the Baptist realized that the Messiah was none other than his very own cousin, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Mary and also the Son of God!

JOHN 1:32-34
32 And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him.
33 And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.
34 And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God
.

As has been pointed out by countless of Bible commentators, the text before us displays the Trinity of God – the text doesn’t prove the doctrine of the Trinity, it simply shows the Godhead.

The LORD Jesus having been baptized, is seen with the Spirit descending and resting upon Him, while the voice of the Father is heard from heaven which was opened to Jesus as has never been opened before or since – such access that the Son has with the Father knows no equal – except where those of us who are born again in Christ, walking in the Spirit and in obedience are concerned: we share this access to our heavenly Father! Astounding, is it not?

The Father looks upon His Son and declares that He is “well pleased” and its by none other than Christ in us, the hope of glory, that we are ourselves empowered to walk in the Spirit and possess the ability to obey the Holy God of all creation, and likewise hear from the LORD:

MATTHEW 25:21
His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord
.

The vicarious nature of Christ Jesus is two fold: for He stands in the place of God on our behalf and we may know the Father by knowing the Son; He is approachable, and touchable, and compassionate as One who knows by His own experience our frailty and weakness in these frames of dust (Heb. 4:15). He is well able to minister to us, and we are able by the Spirit to interact with Him.

Also He stands in the place of humanity on behalf of the LORD God Who sees those who have received Jesus Christ as LORD and Savior as those in whom “He [is also] well pleased” and undefiled with “garments clean and white” (Rev. 19:7-9).

We see then the absolute perfection in the priesthood of the LORD Jesus Christ – not after the order of Aaron under the Levitical priesthood, but after Melchizedek (Gen. 14:18; Psalm 110:4; Heb. 5:6, 10; 6:20; Heb. 7:1, 10-11, 15, 17, 21).

From this point, now that the Messiah has been baptized into His holy offices, He is ready to commence His ministry - - almost. There is yet the beginning of Chapter Four to deal with and a show down that caused the watching universe to hold it's breath!
Read more!
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